A love triangle.
Cold War tensions.
Music by Abba.
Chess is an epic musical, and it is being presented by OSMaD at Scotch College, opening on October 18th. Emily McKenzie takes on the role of Florence Vassy, and she was exposed to Chess in a manner most familiar. “Like many children of the 80s, I was exposed to Chess through Murray Head’s iconic ‘One Night in Bangkok’! Years later, I was introduced to ‘The Mountain Duet’ by dear friend James Cutler, where we used to sing it around his piano until 3am, and then I fell in love with the score by listening to the Original London Concept Album on repeat in my car”.
Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus penned a sweeping score for the show, and it is one which certainly attracts singers to the work. Owen Clarke is taking on Anatoly Sergievsky, a role he views as a dream role – “When I saw the opportunity, I jumped at it”. McKenzie does not hesitate in singling out her favourite number – “I love ‘Nobody’s Side’. At this point in the show, Florence has reached a major turning point and this song is so well placed to share her torment and indecision with the audience. It has been one of my favorite female musical theatre songs for a long time and I’m so excited to be performing it. The backing vocalists in the number are incredible and help to fuel such a powerful song”.
McKenzie last worked with OSMaD on The Pajama Game last year, and she is enjoying not only being back with the company, but also the fact that she and Florence are the same age. “I think we are both very different people, though. Florence is very business minded, passionate about climbing the ladder to success, and working for the best, all whilst fighting to be seen as a strong woman in an industry full of men. Our similarities lie in how we love, and how we give our all to those who mean the most to us – all of this while maintaining a strong and determined façade to the outside world”.
Clarke hails from Ireland, and he is relishing being involved in the Melbourne community theatre scene. “I am still learning a lot about the companies over here in comparison to Dublin”, says Clarke. “I feel that in Melbourne, you are given so many more opportunities. Thankfully, like most companies in Melbourne, OSMaD were so welcoming to me and willing to take a chance on someone they had never heard of or seen very little of before. I’m so grateful to the company for taking a chance on a random Irish guy!!!”
That same random Irish guy has found it hard to tell the story of the show and present the role of Anatoly in a way which is understandable to all. “I feel we have all had that struggle at some point. We all know the ‘Story of Chess’ but most will comment on how it’s a musical with many interpretations and conclusions – who does Anatoly really choose in the end?”
If you’ve never seen Chess, it’s well worth a trip to Hawthorn to see OSMaD’s production. Asked to describe the show, Clarke offers this description: “Chess is a dramatic and emotional love triangle between a Russian, an American and a Brit while they compete in the world chess championships. It may sound unexciting to most but it’s full of twists, turns and even a bit of espionage!”
OSMaD’s Chess runs from October 18th-October 28th.
Tickets are available from www.osmad.com.au